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Despite UN call for Yemen truce, new clashes around key port

FightingbetweenSaudi-led coalitionforcesandYemen’sShiite rebelshasflaredupagainaroundtheRedSeaportcityofHodeida,despiteU.N.callsforacease-fire,Yemeniofficialsand witnesses said Tuesday.

The escalation, which followed a lull that hadbeen in place since earlier this month, began late onMonday with coalitionairstrikes hitting the rebels, known as Houthis, in and aroundHodeida. Street fighting wasalso underwayin the main KhamsinStr. in the citycenterand in al-Salehdistrict. The officialsspoke about theclashes oncondition of anonymitybecause theywere notauthorized to talk to reporters; the witnessesdid so for fearfor theirsafety.

InformationMinisterMoammer al-Iryani, whois inYemen’s internationally recognizedgovernment, said theHouthis shelled thecity center and neighborhoodsheld by governmentforces. Meanwhile, therebel-run Al Masirah TV said the rebelsattackedgovernmentforces on a main road linking the capital, Sanaa, and Hodeida.Government forceshad captured theroad in September.

Earlier, the rebelssaidthey’dfired a ballistic missile theprevious night into Saudi Arabia in responseto an attempted borderincursion and anotherairstrike, and that they reserved the right to respondtoattacks. The missilecamehours after the rebels said theywould haltall rocketfire into Saudi Arabia for the sake of peaceefforts.

Thecoalition has beenattempting toretake Hodeidafrom the rebelssince last summer, with itsforcesnow 5kilometers (3 miles)fromtheport,Yemen’s traditional lifeline.

The renewedHodeidafighting underminesthe latest U.N. effortsto endthe three-yearwar. MartinGriffiths, the U.N. envoy,announced onFridaythatboth sides hadagreed to attendpeace talks inSweden “soon.” Yemeniofficials had said the next round of talkswould takeplace on Nov. 29.

The Yemeni government said Monday it would attend the talks but also insisted the Houthis do so “unconditionally.”

A U.N. draft resolutioncirculated by Britain on Mondayurges the warringparties to relaunch peacetalks and take urgent stepsto address the humanitariancrisis. It also calls for animmediate cease-firearound Hodeida.

President and CEO of the InternationalRescue Committee, DavidMiliband, said Tuesday the draft resolution is “a vital diplomatic step and thebesthope” toward a cease-fire andthoughonly focusedonHodeida, “represents a critical developmentfollowing thebreakthrough call bythe U.S. government for a ceasefire in Yemen.”

The Trump administrationlate inOctober calledfor an urgent halt to the war and negotiations aimed atapolitical settlement.

The U.S.-backed,Saudi-led coalition hasbeen battlingthe rebels on the side of Yemen’s internationally recognized government sinceMarch 2015 in a war that has killed tensof thousandsof people and pushedmuch of the country to the brink of starvation.

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